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Conn. archdiocese sues over misconduct payments

By JOHN CHRISTOFFERSEN, Associated Press
Associated Press

NEW HAVEN, Conn. -- The Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Hartford has sued its insurer, saying the company failed to cover more than $1 million the archdiocese paid out in recent years to settle four sexual misconduct cases involving priests.

The archdiocese filed a federal lawsuit in Connecticut last week against Interstate Fire and Casualty Company of Chicago. The lawsuit says the insurer was supposed to reimburse claims that exceed $200,000 but has failed or refused to make payments to the archdiocese.

An attorney for the archdiocese says the insurer owes the archdiocese more than $1 million.

"If they are not reimbursed by the insurance carrier, that's money that the archdiocese is not able to devote to other worthy pursuits," Elizabeth Stewart, attorney for the archdiocese, said Monday.

An insurer spokeswoman, Suzanne Meraz, said the company doesn't comment on pending lawsuits.

At issue are four cases the diocese settled between 2010 and earlier this year involving priests accused of the sexual misconduct of minors in the 1970s and 1980s.

The lawsuit contends that the insurer failed to respond to repeated requests by the archdiocese and improperly demanded access to documents covered by attorney-client privileges or personnel files that church officials are not allowed to release.

"The foregoing activities of Interstate constitute unfair trade practices, because they offend public policy and they are immoral, unscrupulous and unethical," the lawsuit states. "Specifically, the activities are an attempt to avoid payment of amounts due, in violation of the terms of Interstate's policies."

The lawsuit claims the insurer took a similar approach with the Diocese of Springfield, Mass., and the Archdiocese of Seattle, Wash.

The Springfield diocese reached a settlement with unidentified insurance companies in 2008 to pay claims filed by people who were sexually abused by priests. In 2007, the insurance companies sued by the diocese included Interstate, the diocese said.

Copyright:(c) 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
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